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  • Writer's pictureMotto Health

Don't go it alone! -4 Ways Social Support Can Help You Heal

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Living with a chronic inflammatory condition can be a lonely experience. You may feel that your friends and family can’t understand your experience. Some days, with symptoms like pain, fatigue or fog, it feels too tiring to think about leaving the house. In theory, you’d like to take your friends up on that offer. But really you just want to rest.

You’re not alone. Everyone who has an autoimmune condition experiences this feeling at different times. And there are absolutely benefits to resting and being alone at times. However, there is also tremendous benefit in cultivating strong social support in your life. In fact, a lot of research shows that reducing isolation and having emotional support in your life are two things that can most help reduce distress, pain and fatigue, and increase your happiness and quality of life. That’s why at Motto, social support is one of our 7 Pillars of Care.

Here are the top 4 reasons we prioritize Social Support as a core part of healing and thriving:

#1: It decreases stress hormones. Less stress hormones means less inflammation and pain. Less pain means you can live your life more fully. It’s a virtuous cycle.

#2: You feel seen, heard, and understood. This protects against psychological distress, depression and anxiety that can often come with autoimmune conditions.

#3: Socializing often goes hand-in-hand with activities that are inspiring, fun, and encourage you to move your body. In many chronic conditions, like RA, fibromyalgia, and ankylosing spondylitis, regular physical activity is essential to reducing long-term pain and fatigue.

#4: Sometimes being with other people is just distracting - in a good way! And believe it or not, distracting your mind from pain can actually reduce the sensations of pain.

But... how do I reach out when I’m hurting?

OK, let’s get real. Reducing social isolation is easier said than done. Sometimes it feels like there’s too much pressure to do all these things to help yourself feel better. Plus, asking for support from loved ones can bring up discomfort or even fear. Maybe you don’t want to feel dependent on someone else, you feel embarrassed, or you don’t want to burden them. You’re not alone. Many people–so many people–are not that great at asking for the support they deserve!

Here are a few tips to make reaching out for social support feel easier and more rewarding:

  • The quality of social support is more important than the amount. Focus on including the people who really matter to you and are there for you. Less may be more.

  • You don’t have to leave the house to feel supported! A phone conversation or text exchange with a friend can lift your spirits.

  • Invite trusted ones into your research and medical decisions. Autoimmune conditions are complex to understand and navigate. Invite one or two trusted people to be sounding boards.

  • Ask for help with chores and tasks. It is essential (not just nice) to have help doing things around the house, especially during flares. Break tasks into chunks and ask for helpers with laundry, groceries, cleaning and cooking.

  • Socialize the way you want: Explain to friends what types of activities, times of days or amounts of time you can hang out. Say it up front so you can be on the same page, and have control over the energy you spend.

  • Explain what works for you–and what doesn’t. Most people have good intentions, but they don’t always say the right things. Put together a “Please do” and “Please don’t” list you can share with loved ones so they can provide the kind of emotional support that’s truly helpful. (E.g, “Please listen without interrupting” and “Please don’t give me advice if I don’t ask.”)

  • Connect with peer support groups! Your loved ones don’t always get it. But others who share your condition do. And that is a huge support! Motto offers Group Coaching where you can connect with a small group of peers in a safe space.

  • Online Community: Connect with your peers through Motto’s discussion board, extensive content library and posts. We want to hear about your personal experiences, challenges and successes–and so do your peers.

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